UMNO: Smell of corrosion (from Arab News)
Malaysian politics is in a frenzy at present – and the deputy prime minister is very much part of it. Allegations made in a court trial that he is linked to the gruesome murder last year of a Mongolian translator with whom, it is claimed, he had an affair are unlikely to go away. Moreover, neither he nor UMNO is helped by accusations from senior UMNO figures that the allegations were instigated by Badawi; the UMNO youth leader openly accuses the prime minister of “lies, accusations and nonsense” while Dr. Mahathir has said that there is a concerted campaign against Najib and that as well as Badawi someone else is behind it. It creates an image of a party that is not only deeply split but a nest of conspirators. The latter is made worse with the fresh sodomy accusation against opposition leader and former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim; polls show the overwhelming majority of Malaysians believe them to be conspiracy – and one that has political credentials.
But even if everything goes to plan, and Najib becomes prime minister in 2010, it is no guarantee that he will be able to turn UMNO’s fortunes around.
The party’s poor performance in the March elections was not down to Badawi alone. Inflation and rising oil prices were and remain global issues, beyond Malaysia’s control; party corruption and ethnic tensions predated his premiership. Changing leaders is not going to plaster over the cracks in the party that the present set of scandals only makes worse. After decades of rule, there is a definite smell of corrosion in UMNO. Where it goes from here is anyone’s guess. But on present reckoning, the guess has to be down even more.